Politics & Government

Legislative Notebook: Houston legislators hazed

State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, State Sen. Larry Walker III and State Rep. Heath Clark listen to comments by Houston County residents in January, where they sometimes took notes and always declared appreciation for those who had served in the military.
State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, State Sen. Larry Walker III and State Rep. Heath Clark listen to comments by Houston County residents in January, where they sometimes took notes and always declared appreciation for those who had served in the military. bcabell@macon.com

One of the traditions most beloved by state lawmakers is hazing their new colleagues by hassling them with pointed questions when they present their first bills.

Consider Houston County's new Republicans, state Sen. Larry Walker III and state Reps. Shaw Blackmon and Heath Clark, who were officially inducted into the Legislature.

This week, Walker got unanimous approval on his Senate Bill 337, which speeds the application process for benefits like Medicaid for certain Georgia military dependents.

One senator stumped Walker on when his bill would take effect. Walker had to admit he did not know. (It's an arcane bit of trivia that when bills don't say, the answer is generally July 1 of the year the bill passes.)

Blackmon was hazed a few weeks ago. On Feb. 9, he got approval on his House Bill 866, which would exempt a certain type of insurance plan from a premium tax worth $57,000. The House speaker chided Blackmon for being slow to get out of his chair.

Blackmon also got dinged with the same date question, and guessed that the bill would take effect upon the governor's signature.

One lawmaker also accused Blackmon of being unable to find his car one day.

And Clark's House Bill 772, passed on Feb. 18, reschedules early voting Saturdays if the Saturday is too close to a holiday. He said voter turnout was low and that it was hard to find poll workers on an early voting Saturday that fell on July 4 last year. His bill sets holiday-time voting Saturdays a week earlier than they are now.

Clark was forced to admit he did not know if the bill applies to St. Patrick's Day, though the Legislature often does observe that holiday. He said it applies to state-recognized holidays. (In fact, St. Patrick's Day is not on the official list.)

Each of the bills still needs approval from the opposite chamber before being sent to the governor's desk.

LAWMAKERS TAKE PART IN RIFLE RAFFLE

The Legislature debates gaming and guns, but they also enjoy both things.

State Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin, took to the House floor on Friday morning pushing tickets to the Sportsmens' Caucus raffle to win a rifle.

The fundraising goal must be relatively modest: Only lawmakers can buy tickets, though they are far outnumbered by lobbyists, staff and others at the Capitol.

The winning ticket will be drawn once 200 tickets are sold or the March 24 end of the session comes.

INTERSECTION MAY BE NAMED FOR MACK FITZGERALD

A resolution in the state House would dedicate a Laurens County intersection to Mack Fitzgerald, an Air Force bomber who served in World War II.

Such road dedications usually pass easily. State Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, filed House Resolution 1461 this week.

If approved, the intersection of Ga. 257 and the U.S. 441 Bypass would be dedicated as the Tech Sgt. Mack Fitzgerald Intersection.

Telegraph writer Maggie Lee compiled this report.

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